I was struck today about how long term problems suddenly become addressed in a semi-sudden (or apparently so) surge of collective action. The trigger for my thinking: purple tights. Not a reference to one of my favorite picture books when my kid was younger. Nope, my kid is wearing purple tights to school tomorrow since she is allowed/encouraged to accessorize with purple stuff tomorrow as part of an anti-bullying and especially anti-bullying of gay people campaign. As I discussed with her, teenage gays committing suicide is not new at all, but has become a bigger cause this fall after some publicized suicides and new energy given to the tolerance movement.
The anti-concussion effort in the National Football League (which I have discussed repeatedly here) has gained new energy this week after a series of particularly nasty helmet-to-helmet hits. Now the question is not so much keeping guys off the field (although the Tuesday Morning QB suggests that some should not return anytime soon at all) but penalizing the hitters with suspensions. Even Rodney Harrison, who was an exceptionally hard-hitter as a safety (an ironic position name), has come out for more suspensions and penalties. The NFL seems to be a bit more serious this week, but we shall see. The league and the media still glorify the really hard hits. While I think I understand that a hard hit can lead to a fumble or a dropped ball, perhaps football can still be football without quite this level of crunching. We shall see.
Mine safety is also getting a bit more attention. The Chilean story, an amazing one, is not the first time that miners have been at risk. It is an incredibly dangerous occupation. It does seem that there is a bit of momentum pushing back against deregulation.
Anyhow, for all of the flaws of Gladwell's work, there do seem to be tipping points--that changes in attitudes, awareness and/or political power can produce some significant changes in the politics of things. Of course, I am hoping that the US does not tip so far the wrong way in reaction to these harsh economic times....